Gardening With James Hilyard: How To Get Your Lawn Back In Shape
James Hilyard is Ipswich City Councils Infrastructure and Environment Department, Acting City Maintenance manager.
James is a horticulturalist, arborist and holds a masters degree in sustainability.
In this months column, James shares his tips on how to get your lawn healthy and back in shape as the weather warms up and the grass takes off.
Chances are your lawn will be looking a bit worse for wear coming into spring.
But over the next month, your lawn will start bursting back to life.
Having a nice lawn is a challenge in our climate but the benefits are real and often underestimated.
Grass is vital in the urban environment and provides many useful services that man-made structures and surfaces cant provide.
Grass cleanses our environment by filtering our water, it reduces carbon dioxide and cools our surrounds.
So, how do we have a nice lawn in 40-plus degree heat in the middle of a drought in the driest continent in the world?
I believe it is possible, and it can be done without wasting water.
The best tip I can give you is to mow more often.
You will save water and have a healthier lawn.
Did you know?
Not to mention the aesthetic benefits of nice green grass to play on.
Here is how to get the best lawn you can for the least amount of water
Mow more often
Use a mulching mower
Water at night or very early mornings
This will reduce evaporation, less drift from winds and more than likely better pressure too.
Water well but less frequently
Dont Even Give Weeds A Chance
Pre-emergent herbicides are a gardeners best friend. They work by targeting weeds before they have a chance to sprout. Think of it like cutting the weeds off at the pass its easier to get rid of them before they sprout compared to after. Look for a pre-emergent herbicide, like Compare-N-Save Crabgrass & Sandbur Preventer, that targets crabgrass, sedges, or whatever plant is the biggest nuisance in your lawn.
To Spruce Things Up In A Hurry Use This Simple Three
As much as we love our gardens, there is nothing so stressful as when we open them to party guests or a neighborhood tour. Part of the pleasure of gardening is sharing our creation with others, but the days that lead up to an open house are invariably filled with doubt and worry. We are suddenly confronted with the reality of our less-than-picture-perfect garden and limited time to whip it into shape.
As a professional gardener, I have a lot of experience preparing gardens for parties or other functions. As a result, Ive developed a surefire method for quickly getting a garden into shape. First, I assess the situation to determine what improvements will have the most impact. Next, I clean up the most visible problems. Finally, I enhance these areas with quick embellishments. I call it the ACE method: assess, clean up, enhance. Its a simple technique all gardeners can use to make their garden look its best fast.
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Feed Your Lawn Regularly
Nothing brings existing foliage in the garden back to life like a good quality feed. Some feeds are designed specifically for the lawn, which are great if your lawn is moss and weed-free, and others have added ingredients to kill unwanted fungi, weeds and moss for quick results. Some are designed for the spring to promote new growth, and others are for toughening up your autumn grass in time for winter.
Not all feeds are pet-friendly, so check the packaging beforehand or ask the supplier. Chemical-free weed killing alternatives include boiling water which may also affect your grass so its not ideal vinegar, salt and sugar.
Whatever feed you choose, spread from April through to September for extended growth and health. Try a liquid feed from later spring into summer to feed as well as moisten your lawn during dry spells, then opt for a gentler feed which is low in nitrogen in autumn which wont speed up growth and leave new shoots susceptible to winter frosts.
Causes Of Grass Dying
Below are the major causes of dead grass:
- Poor preparation and installation: Properly preparing the area and installing new grass is much more than spreading seed or laying sod over the area and if done incorrectly, seed and sod wont properly grow and can eventually die.
- Cultural Practices: Keeping your lawn green and happy involves properly watering, feeding and mowing at the proper height for the particular grass you are growing. In the turfgrass industry, these are called cultural practices. When not correctly carried out, any of them can lead to your turfs demise.
- Grass Type: Make sure the grass you are growing is hardy in your particular climate and grows in the light conditions present in your yard. Planting grass that prefers a sunny location in the shade, or using grass not hardy in your area of the country leads to its eventual death.
- Pests and Diseases: Various pests and diseases affect turfgrass, leading to a weakened state and possible death. You can take a sample of the affected turf to your local garden store for diagnosis or contact your local county Extension Office. Its imperative to treat the pest or disease problem before installing new grass in the area.
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Wasps Nesting In Lawn
Q: What can I do to get rid of the yellow jackets living in the ground around my house?
Ken McGarry, Chicago
A: Roger Cook replies: There are many kinds of wasps and bees that nest underground. Most are beneficial, not aggressive, and valuable as pollinators. But if you are sure that you have yellow jackets, the following strategies might get rid of them.
First, try flooding them with water in the evening, after they’ve returned to the nest. It may take several attempts over a period of days to drown them or encourage them to move elsewhere. Or you could try covering each hole with plasticagain, in the early eveningand seal it against the ground with bricks or blocks for a few days.
If that doesn’t cook them or discourage them, you’ll probably have to use an insecticide. There are many formulations of these chemicals, including some poison-free products such as mint oil. Availability varies from region to region, but you should find what you need at a garden center or home supply store.
Dealing with white grubs, chinch bugs, or other such pests? We’ve got you covered in How to Deal With Common Lawn Problems
Tips To Keep Your Lawn Healthy
After youve gone through the trouble and expense of reviving your dead lawn, the last thing you want is for it to fall back into less than prime conditions. This is where good aftercare comes into play and can mean the difference in a thick, green flourishing lawn and one containing dead areas and in need of reviving.
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Tip No : With Fertilizers And Weed Killers Timing Is Everything
When applying weed killers and fertilizers, take into account variables like geographic location, grass type, weed type and soil conditions. Here are a few general guidelines:
- A thick, healthy lawn that doesnt provide weed seeds adequate sunlight or open space to germinate is your best defense against weeds. A sick, spotty lawn leaves lots of open space for weeds to take root and grow.
- Attack weeds in the early spring and summer before they have a chance to develop deep root systems, go to seed or reproduce.
- Different weeds require different chemicals and methods. Its best to eradicate grassy weeds like crabgrass with pre-emergent weed killers, which destroy germinating plants as they sprout. Broadleaf weeds need to be attacked while theyre young and actively growing spraying the leaves of individual plants or patches of plants is most effective. Dandelion killers work by literally growing the plant to death.
Time’s Up For This Ceanothus
I have a 15-year-old, small-leafed ceanothus, which over time, despite pruning, has become a many-trunked small tree. This year, for the first time, it did not flower, although there are many new eruptions from the trunks.
Shall I cut back all the top growth, hoping that the eruptions will grow, or has it come to the end of the road? Its loss would leave a serious gap, and at 88 years of age, I do not relish the prospect of root removal.
Betty Oxlade, via email
It is not good news, I am afraid. This is classic vintage ceanothus behaviour. If you cut off its crown expecting to create a new tree, the browning of those eruptions and death will follow. By all means, cut it down to enable you to loosen the root by rocking back and forth in the dry soil under the former canopy. Perhaps you have a neighbour, friend or family member who could finish the job for you.
Two things to lessen the pain: the fact that the tree was just old and not diseased in any way, means it is safe to replace it with another .
Also, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus is one of the fastest-growing evergreen flowering shrubs of all. And for the first two or three years, you can forget about pruning it after flowering while it fills the gap left by its predecessor.
Onwards and upwards, Betty.
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Check And Tune Up Your Equipment
Whether you never got around to the recommended fall maintenance for your mower last year or just want to be sure your mower is in great shape for the mowing season ahead, now is the perfect time for a mower tune-up.
Your mower tune-up should include changing the oil, air filter, and spark plug. Youll also want to clean your mower from top to bottom, making sure to remove dirt and grass clippings from the undercarriage.
Now is also a great time to sharpen the mower blade to ensure the best cut for your lawn all season long. Dull mower blades rip and damage your grass, creating the perfect conditions for disease to set in.
Last, but not least, fill the gas tank with fresh gas, and youre good to go. Keep in mind that mowers can be difficult to start while its still cold outside. To make things easier, try leaving your mower out in the sun for a few hours to warm it up first.
Of course, if you want to save valuable time for a beer with your buddies, the experienced technicians at Power Pro Equipment are happy to handle maintenance and repairs on all of your lawn equipment from zero turn, lawn tractors and walk behinds to single-blade push mowers, and even gas-powered utility vehicles.
Use Premium Grass Seed
Theres a saying, You get what you pay for, and that is certainly true when it comes to grass seed. When you use premium grass seed like Scotts® Turf Builder® grass seed, youll know that it will sprout fast, provide even coverage, and stay in place. Coated with WaterSmart® PLUS coating that absorbs 2X more water than uncoated seed, Turf Builder® grass seed feeds to jump-start growth and protects seedlings against disease. Lawn pros know that planting a lawn with premium grass seed allows you to start with a thicker lawn so its easier to keep it looking lush and full.
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Ready To Get Your Lawn Back In Shape Here’s How
A healthy lawn can be helpful in a lot of ways, it can keep the kids out of the house, be a great place to relax or help sell your house.
But even after a mild winter, a lawn needs help to get green and stay healthy.
Seeding is the No. 1 thing can do to fill in bare areas and get ahead of weeds. The optimal time to seed is in the fall, but if you still have areas bare you can still go for it this time of year, said Jennifer Grant, of Cornell University, and a member of the university’s Turfgrass program.
Grant, who holds a Ph.D. in entomology and is director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, said the Turfgrass program is dedicated to looking at the effects and practices of lawn care on the environment.
We are designed to help people manage their lawns and think about their practices and impacts, Grant said.
If you are seeding bare areas, Grant said, rye grass is a good go-to as it germinates quickly, allowing it to get ahead of weeds. Also, putting down hay or mulch to allow the seeds to stay moist in the first week will greatly improve the seeds’ chances.
One of the No. 1 things a homeowner can do is keep the mower blades sharp, because when they become dull you bludgeon the grass and use 25 percent more fuel. And more fuel is more expensive and worse environmentally. And when it is sharp, you get a cleaner cut, which is better for the plant and less harmful, Grant said.
A three-inch height is optimal, Grant said.
Determine If Your Grass Dead Or Dormant
Determining whether your grass is actually dead or just dormant is important because it dictates what your next steps should be. If it salvageable, you can save time, money, and a lot of work by restoring it rather than starting all over. If not, no harm no foul.
Try these tests to see if you have a dead lawn or a dormant lawn.
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What You Need To Know To Get A Tired Lawn Back Into Shape
A healthy lawn needs about an inch of water a week, but not all at once. OSU Extension Service
CORVALLIS Lawns languish in the heat of summer unless showered with the water they require to thrive. But not to worry, the grass isnt dead.
Come fall when the rains start again, grass greens up quickly, said Alec Kowalewski, turf specialist for Oregon State Universitys Extension Service.
While letting your lawn go dormant in summer isnt a bad thing especially with concern about water shortages lack of irrigation does allow weeds to gain a foothold, he said. And regular wear and tear can cause compaction within a lawn, which leads to brown or bare spots.
Now is a good time to whip your lawn back into shape, but starting over usually isnt necessary.
You should always try renovation before putting in a new lawn because its difficult to get a stand of grass established, Kowalewski said. So if you have something to begin with, go with renovating.
What you have to begin with can vary from addressing a few brown spots to a desert of weeds to hardpan soil. Assess your lawns level of neediness and proceed with a regular renovation or a no-holds-barred one. Most often, a regular tune-up is all thats needed.
Once youve got your lawn established, follow Kowalewskis three steps to a healthy lawn that will outcompete those pesky weeds: water, fertilize and mow properly.
Water 1 inch a week, but dont do it all at once.
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Best gas fire pit
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At 68cm wide this is a decent size gas fire pit, so gather round with your patio furniture and enjoy the glow.
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Pest Problems And More
There are other reasons that could be causing your lawn to fail. Is your lawn dying or browning in patches? Notice any volcano-shaped mounds of soil on your lawn? Bugs, grubs and gophers are at the top of a Most Wanted list, but there are other unwelcome guests that could be a challenge to expel from your lawn. Heres a guide to identifying lawn pests and their damage, and tips for getting rid of them.
Some other possibilities to consider if your lawn looks unhealthy: Is there a drainage issue that might make growing grass difficult or impossible without re-routing the water? Have you planted trees or changed your landscape so your lawn gets less sunlight this growing season? Are you planting the correct grass? Contact your local extension agent for help with these and other questions.
When And How To Fertilize Your Lawn
You should only fertilize your lawn once a yearyou can actually have a lazy lawn! If you feed your lawn too much, the roots wont need to reach down to find food. When its hot, theyll dry out right away. The trick is to feed it once a yearin spring or fall. When roots arent pampered, theyll grow deeper and become stronger. If you didnt get around to fertilizing your lawn in the spring, do it in September or October. Our preferred method? Using Epsom salts to fertilize your lawn. You can either sprinkle them on your lawn using a spreader or make a liquid solution out of them by adding some water and putting the mixture in a spray bottle. Espsom salts are composed of magnesium and sulfur, both of which are highly beneficial to grass. Magnesium kick-starts seed germination and is also a player in manufacturing chlorophyll, the substance that plants create from sunlight in order to feed themselves.
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